Are you in awe of people like Barack Obama who have a way of commanding respect whenever they walk into a room?
The former United States president ranks at the top of the respect “barometer”: he has a quiet dignity, innate integrity, steadfast resolve—not to mention a myriad of amazing achievements that draw admiration. He’s also humble at heart.
You don’t have to be a former president of a first-world country to claim respect.
People who are truly respected tend to have an unwavering foundation of the following qualities.
Read on for some ground rules on gaining respect.
1) You have to respect yourself first
You’ve heard this one before but it bears repeating.
Respecting yourself is the first step toward understanding that you deserve love, consideration, and opportunities like anyone else, say healthcare writers Sandra Silva Casabianca and Kaitlan Vogel at Psych Central. “Self-respect is knowing you are worthy and treating yourself accordingly.”
Similarly, Jaime Zuckerman, a licensed clinical psychologist in Philadelphia says that our level of self-respect acts like a kind of blueprint that teaches others how to engage with us.
“When we develop healthy reciprocal relationships, we find ourselves surrounded by those who respect us, support us, and treat us how we want to be treated.”
So what is self-respect exactly?
Simply put, it’s self-love and self-care. It’s also refraining from comparing yourself to other people.
Self-respect can also look like living by your own beliefs and values and not compromising on them for the sake of others—in other words, not people-pleasing.
It takes a strength of character to truly respect yourself. But you’re worth it, so put self-respect into practice everyday.
2) Your word is your bond
To keep our original Barack Obama analogy going, we love this quote by former First Lady Michelle Obama.
In her 2008 Democratic convention speech, Michelle Obama famously said the following words:
“Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond, that you do what you say you’re going to do.”
The phrase means to keep your word, or to keep your promises.
According to Rachael Ferguson, an ethnographer and lecturer at Princeton University, the origin of the phrase came from the principle that “allowed merchant traders in the late 16th century to make agreements legally binding before the advent of written pledges.”
This shows that our words carry weight and they are a way for people to respect us. It’s what people were relying on long before there were written contracts and receipts.
When we go back on our word, that respect becomes compromised.
As much as you reasonably can, keep your promises. Of course, there are times when unforeseen things come up and can get in the way, but making a commitment to following through on what we say is paramount to gaining respect.
3) Reliability is a prerequisite
Of course, it’s not just our words that garner respect from others, but also our actions.
Being reliable means that you are punctual (for the most part), dependable and that you take responsibility for your actions. It also shows that you’re authentic and can be trusted.
Being reliable also means that you’re approachable and that a bad mood doesn’t rule you, says Adventure Styles founder Paul Joiner. You are able to control how you react to situations that are triggering.
4) Strive to be the best at what you do, but not superior to others
This doesn’t mean going into competition mode with other people, but it means trying to be your very best at what you do.
“When people perceive you as knowledgeable, confident and competent, they’re more likely to listen to and take you seriously,” says Segun Ojediran, MSc.
“You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but striving to excel in your chosen field can help you establish credibility and influence.”
5) Stand up for yourself when you need to
Sometimes confrontation cannot be avoided and it can even be a healthy and necessary skill, says clinical psychologist Dr. Jessica January Behr. “Standing up for ourselves is imperative in order to protect and maintain our mental health, productivity, and confidence.”
It can also strengthen interpersonal relationships and make people respect you more.
It’s important to stay calm but be assertive if you feel like somebody is trying to bully you, says Deep Patel, from Success.com.
“Don’t allow yourself to get frazzled or react with low blows,” Patel says. “[And] don’t cater to them or allow them to browbeat you either. Walk the high road but stand your ground.”
Standing up for yourself is a surefire way for not only others to respect you, but you’ll also respect and be proud of yourself.
6) Live your life by your values
People who are respected live by their own standards and they never seek approval or validation, says Dr. Audrey Reille. “They know how to listen and take input into consideration but are not easy to manipulate. They focus on doing the right thing rather than trying to please everyone.”
Living by your own personal values means to be the most authentic version of yourself in every arena of your life: this means being real with your family, friends, and colleagues.
7) Speak your mind…respectfully
You don’t have to be agreeable to be respected, so don’t think you have to bend your values and sugarcoat your perspective in any way.
“We can respect people even if we disagree with them, and we can respect people we don’t even like,” says Forbes contributor Terina Allen.
“But you would be hard pressed to find someone who will tell you that they respect people they don’t trust or can’t count on to use good judgment to make ethically sound decisions.”
Of course, delivery is also important. So be kind, be compassionate, but also be firm when necessary.
8) Don’t be afraid to share your flaws
Being respected doesn’t mean you say and do everything perfectly. We’re all human at the end of the day, so we’re going to make mistakes.
But the fact that we’re willing to own up to our mistakes is the key difference and it’s what makes others respect us.
Embracing your individuality and talking openly about your mistakes—and the learning that ensued from the experience—be a great way to foster bonds with other people.
People will respect you for being authentic and forthright as it could, in turn, help them to be more at ease about their own flaws and learning curves.
9) Don’t demand respect to get respect
One surefire way to lose respect is to demand it.
People—especially those in leadership positions—can become wrapped up in demanding to be respected. “Sometimes, we think that because we’re the boss, we should be respected automatically,” says leadership coach Ben Brearley.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t true,” he says. “People might do what you say because you’re the boss. However, without respect, you might find your people may stop speaking up or failing to help when you need it.”
It’s worth repeating that respect is something that needs to be earned. “It usually happens by doing the right thing by your people, and building trust through small positive actions over time,” emphasizes Brearley.
“If you expect respect without taking the time to earn it, you might be taking yourself too seriously.”
10) And finally, treating everyone with respect is a reflection of you
Remember, you get what you give.
“In order to get respect, you have to give it—and not just to the higher-ups,” says workplace relationship writer Erin Greenawald.
“People will pick up if you’re nice to the bosses but mean to the receptionist or delivery guy, and think you’re a brown-noser rather than a genuinely good person. Aim for the latter,” she says.
This applies to our personal lives as well. We tend to take our loved ones for granted and assume that we can talk or act a certain way with them because the love is unconditional. Treating the people we’re attached to emotionally with respect is especially important to nurture healthy relationships.
Speaking of nurturing, respect also applies to children.
Treating children with respect will make them respect you. For example, try not to interrupt them when they’re speaking to you and give them space to show that you trust them at an early age.
“Give them a sense of privacy,” says online resource La Prima Casa Montessori. “Knock before entering their room and avoid talking about your children in front of other adults. This can be embarrassing for them and can foster a sense of betrayal.”
One of the best ways to demonstrate respect for children is to show them that you trust them. This can mean giving them the freedom to make mistakes and not “freaking out” about it. Guide them but don’t control them. The more you do this, the more they will grow.